Tuesday, October 20, 2015

On China’s “Neighbouring Diplomacy”

Yana Leksyutina, m.journal-neo.org

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Beijing, with access to a vaster array of resources to project its power and fulfil its national interests, is increasing pressure on its neighbouring countries over territorial issues in the South China and East China seas, and, on the other hand, is increasingly employing economic and public diplomacy. However, the rise of Chinese assertiveness in territorial disputes with its neighbours, which has become quite tangible since 2007-2008 has led to the aggravation of relations between Beijing and a number of its neighbouring countries in East Asia and has started to have a very negative impact on the regional situation in the largest East Asian state. ...
In essence, China’s “neighbouring diplomacy” is a combination of traditional diplomacy, economic and public diplomacy in relation to its neighbours. Economic diplomacy is aimed at deepening its neighbouring countries’ economic dependence on China by promoting trade links (for example, by introducing special preferential treatment in trade with these countries), increasing the use of the Chinese currency for inter-regional payments, increasing investment and assisting in the development of neighbouring countries, which includes collaborating with them in the implementation of major infrastructure projects. Public diplomacy is aimed at fostering a positive image of China among its neighbours, and includes measures to expand the presence of the Chinese media in neighbouring countries, attract a growing number of foreign students from neighbouring countries to study in China, and increase the number and presence of Confucius Institutes, among others, throughout the region.
Against the background of deepening conflicts in territorial disputes with its neighbours, the new Chinese leadership has employed a series of measures aimed at strengthening neighbourhood relations, expanding its influence and restoring China’s image in the region since 2013, by embarking on a second wave of a so-called “charm offensive” (the first wave occurred approximately 1997-2007.) Over the course of 2013, with the aim of improving relations with its neighbours, Beijing intensified its diplomatic activity, strengthened its economic diplomacy and offered countries in the region a number of attractive large-scale economic projects. ...
Beijing is trying to convince its neighbours of the idea that the “Chinese dream” and the other nations’ interests and dreams of national revival are dependent on one another and inter-linked. The establishment of good neighbourly relations is not only seen in the suggestion of the strategic concept of a Community with a Common Destiny, China-ASEAN, in the autumn of 2013, but also in Xi Jinping’s public mention in September 2014 of Deng Xiaoping’s concept of the “Asian century”, which will come to be only under the right conditions for achieving the development of China, India and several other neighbouring countries to China. At the APEC summit in November 2014, Beijing the general idea of a common “Asia-Pacific dream” for all countries in the region was aired, which encapsulates the desire for prosperity and security, creates the conditions for this, as well as having the aim of ensuring that the region remains at the forefront of world development and makes a significant contribution to the prosperity of humanity Later, China began to actively promote the idea of a common destiny of the Asian community. Underlying all of these concepts is the over-arching idea of inter-connection between the countries in the region, the need for their solidarity in order to achieve prosperity and security (this means solidarity under the auspices of China). The task, which Beijing is leading by pushing forward similar concepts – dispelling of the fear that was aggravated in its closest neighbours from 2007-2008 about the “Chinese threat”, convincing its neighbours that the rise of China brings prosperity to the whole region, that the desires and dreams of the region of national economic development can only be fully brought about by way of close cooperation with China.
However, the “neighbouring diplomacy” of China, which seemed to demonstrate positive trends the development of Beijing’s contacts with its neighbours in 2013, began to falter in the case of countries with which China has territorial disputes (a number of countries in South-East Asia and Japan.) Another round of escalation of the situation in the South China and East China Seas, which started in May 2014 and continues to this day, largely because of China’s assertive behaviour, was evidence of the failure of the second wave of the “charm offensive”: China’s image continues to fall in a number of countries in the region, and the fear of the increasingly powerful East Asian neighbour is on the rise. Some East Asian countries are showing a growing concern about their increasing economic dependence on China. Among the expert community of South-East Asia, in particular, opinions on the urgent need to diversify trade partners and artificially reduce the economic dependence on China are increasingly heard. Often such characteristic foreign policy conduct of contemporary China, provided by politicians and experts in Asian countries as an example of the significant discrepancy between the grand words and promises of Chinese dignitaries to its neighbours and Beijing’s real foreign policy steps and actions towards them.
Thus, at this stage, when there is a combination of “neighbouring diplomacy” and a contradictory approach to the development of relations with neighbouring countries, which involves putting pressure on its neighbours in territorial disputes (as well as in other matters where the parties’ positions are diametrically opposed), “neighbouring diplomacy” does not bring about the desired results of China’s harmonisation of relations with the countries concerned, and does not lead to the provision of a favourable neighbouring environment, and in a broad sense, to the approval of China as a regional leader.
Yana Leksyutina, Ph.D. in Political Sciences, Lecturer at St. Petersburg State University . ...

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